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Nicole Johänntgen & Jack DeSalvo in Duo
Text: Stefan Pieper
Zurich, July 21, 2020 | Nicole Johänntgen, born in Saarland and now living in Switzerland, met guitarist Jack DeSalvo in New York – the new CD “Lumens” was created in a spontaneous session.

In a combo, the role of the saxophone is often clearly defined: soloist always at the forefront, it’s about solo presence and often – just because of the volume and pitch – about dominance. In a duo, especially with a naturally much “quieter” dialogue partner, things can look very different. Nicole Johänntgen is definitely predestined for the right measure on her alto saxophone when she meets the experienced New York guitarist Jack DeSalvo on the new album “Lumens”. By the way, the two met at a free jazz session – the opposite of two in the studio!

The Swiss citizen does not have to deny her latent leadership role, because that alone results from her good gift of letting a smooth line flow with crystal-clear intonation and elegantly low-vibrato tone. Which alone allows the imaginatively composed pieces on “Lumens” to come together to form a smooth line. The fact that so much subtlety is revealed here, that many imaginary stories without words take shape in the imagination and the listener is invited to be carried away into emotional spaces, that alone may be due to the curiosity of the Swiss citizen who has been doing this in recent years The possibilities of expressing her instrument have been explored in many contexts and, above all, have been emphatically filled with individual personality.

Guitarist JackDeSalvo provides a reliably transparent harmonic framework for this, provides for interventions that speak out of themselves and comes out of cover again and again in filigree improvisations.

Quite a bit oriented towards Bossa Nova figures, the guitar pulsates in the opening piece, about which the saxophone fantasizes in wide awake arches. A charming announcement by Nicole Johänntgen follows afterwards when it comes to a “good morning song”. Such a song-like, yet subtly designed directness changes with more elaborate forms, for example in the longer pieces “Has Never said a word” or Reappearing Sun “. But here, too, there remains a perfect “commitment to each other”, which came about spontaneously.

CD: Nicole Johänntgen, Jack DeSalvo: Lumens

Unseen Rain 2020

Original in German

Lumens is Record of the Week on South German Radio SWR

JAZZ Sparks of light emitted: “Lumens” by Nicole Johänntgen & Jack DeSalvo


Nicole Johänntgen, jazz saxophonist from the Saarland municipality Fischbach-Camphausen, is known for her energetic playing. Usually, it brings every room to a boil, but in times of corona, quieter tones are popular. Together with New York guitarist Jack DeSalvo, Nicole Johänntgen has released a new CD: “Lumens”, released by the label Unsee Rain Records.

Sparks of light emitted: "Lumens" by Nicole Johänntgen & Jack DeSalvo

Sparks of light emitted:

“Lumens” by Nicole Johänntgen & Jack DeSalvo           4 min

Musical sparking

The title of the new CD comes from the Latin word light. For the saxophonist and her guitarist, it is not just a symbol of a spark of light that is supposed to brighten the mind in this difficult time.

Because “Lumens” was recorded in New York, where the musician met Jack DeSalvo with a free jazz orchestra. The two immediately sparked on the same wavelength and spontaneously suggested to take a picture, Nicole Johänntgen said no.

“We had four or five compositions, Jack wrote some of them, I brought some and we played some of them for the first time in the studio, not even rehearsing them properly. One or two passes and you’re done.
The rest were actually free compositions. We wanted to see where the trip was going. That’s the tingling thing about the music: I actually want to be put in the cold water to see what comes out of it. ”

Nicole Johänntgen
"Lumens" by Nicole Johänntgen & Jack DeSalvo (Photo: Daniel Bernet)
Nicole JohänntgenDaniel Bernet

Perfect balance with a lot of dynamism

Nicole Johänntgen and Jack DeSalvo pulled out all the stops during the recording session for “Lumens”. Guitar and saxophone play hands-on with the topics and find the perfect sound balance.

“Above all, I love soft and low tones, occasionally swinging upwards into the heights and sometimes wild and tender.
But it was the combination with the beautiful acoustic guitar that made me reach into my treasure chest with a lot of dynamism. ”

Nicole Johänntgen

The concept album is a small piece of silver

The album “Lumens” is not only recommended because a spontaneous session was perfectly captured. The quality of the pieces by Nicole Johänntgen and Jack DeSalvo is also very convincing. Without a driving beat and without a junk, the concept album is a small piece of silver that can be listened to with great profit.

“For me, Lumens means that we send out sparks of light and they flow somewhere and we start somewhere and we end up somewhere and that is also a concept of the CD. Own songs – but also the freedom to start somewhere and travel    somewhere. ”    – Nicole Johänntgen

Making the Invisible Audible